Thursday, August 3, 2017

Challenging Skyline Divide

Frank (left) and Al in his net (right)
We were supposed to head up to Lake Ann, but it's a hike mostly in the sun with lots of elevation gain and almost twice as long as what we did today on Skyline Divide. Only eight Senior Trailblazers showed for today's hike in unusually hot weather, but that was the easiest part of the challenge. The hard part was the constant biting flies and the occasional mosquito. Frank is wearing long sleeves to combat the bugs. Al was slathered with bug juice, as were we all, but there were so many it was impossible to keep them off. I swear the repellent attracted them! He's wearing his head net.
The flies don't care about the repellent
This was at the start of the hike, and I had sprayed all my clothes with 40% DEET bug juice. They don't seem to mind it, and I began to wonder if they have become attracted to it. They bit me through all the stuff but not through my clothes, thank goodness.
Gaining the ridge
On this hike we travel on a partially shady trail, two miles uphill to the ridge and a magnificent view of Mt. Baker, which is hazy through the smoke from the fires in British Columbia. We've been having some haze and smoke for days now. I didn't expect to see the mountain look this good.
The flowers were amazing
As we trudged upward, I could see these fields of flowers through the netting I was wearing over my hat, because I got tired of inhaling the flies and having them constantly buzzing in my ears as I swatted them away, a useless exercise. Even though the netting was hot, it kept them off my face.
Walking the ridge to our lunch spot
We walked a bit on the up-and-down ridge trail, looking for a lunch spot to catch the light breeze and maybe even find some shade. After a fairly short distance (we usually go much farther), we found a nice place for lunch. Three Trailblazers were not ready to quit, so they went farther along the ridge while we found some shade and enjoyed our lunch, even if some of the bugs had found us. At least once we reached the ridge, they were not as bad as at lower elevations.
A snowfield to cross, Baker behind
We didn't feel much like sitting around swatting the bugs after lunch, so we went off in the direction of the others, knowing they would be meeting us at 1:00pm before we all went back down. When we would catch a little of the slight breeze, it was pretty wonderful, since even though it was hot and buggy, it was also rather beautiful. The longer we stayed on the ridge, the more we could see Baker.
An exposed spot on the trail
I was glad we made it to this place, because I always enjoy the scary traverse. It's not long, but you sure don't want to fall right here. It goes down a long ways, a good way to increase my adrenaline. Plus it made for a good picture.
Ridge trail
We finally ran into the other three and then we all headed back the way we had come. You can see the winding trail along the ridge, where we retraced our steps before heading back into the trees and down to the trailhead. You can see the hazy hills behind the ridge.
Return trip
As we went back down the trail, once we traveled down this open area, we were in the trees, but since we were moving more quickly, going downhill, the bugs didn't bother us as badly as they did on the way up. We got down to the cars before 3:00pm and headed down the twelve-mile-long road back to the highway and the ice cream shop before it was all over.

I have done this hike many times, in sun and rain, but I never experienced bugs like these before. I'm not sure why they were so bad; probably because of the sun and heat, but I really don't know for sure. I will not be going on any more hikes this year without plenty of repellent and my skin completely covered. My face netting will stay with me as well!

Now, however, I'm home, showered and hydrated. I'm thinking a nice glass of wine should hit the spot!


  1. That alpine environment around the ridge trail must be wonderful!

  2. It is incredibly beautiful, but I am a bug magnet. I am itching just reading this post.
    Enjoy your wine - and thank you as always for taking us along.

  3. I like the mountain meadow flowers. But I really like ridge walks. It's like a path made for you. And some ridges can get very narrow.

  4. I though about you all day, wondering what you attempted. We reached 94 today with thick smoke, not an appealing prospect for hiking. We had bugs too. I got mosquito bites while watering pots this morning.
    The bugs do not sound like fun. The hike was absolutely gorgeous though - great photos!

  5. Great hike, despite the bugs. You earned that glass of wine! :)

  6. The bugs would finish me. Even if repellent keeps them from landing, the buzzing around drives me insane. The heat and bugs would be my idea of hell. You are a brave person, Jan.

  7. I'm a world class chicken when it comes to black fly. Once going on a tour to the lighthouse in Rasberry island in the Apostles the whole group fled back to the boat to escape them. I led the way as people were literaly covered by the hordes....

  8. Nice photos ... sounds like a great hike except for the mosquitoes. We seem to have a lot of them back East this summer as well. Also ... to this easterner, it seems very weird to know it's over 100 degrees in Seattle, and then see snow on your route!

  9. Ugh, bugs. Written while sitting here with itching feet where the bugs got me when I went out to water this morning.

  10. You are one tough cookie and travel with others just like you. Congrats on making it through. Mercy, I couldn't have done it with those black flies. Had a dose of those in the Maine mountains. They don't just bite, they take chunks. The views were spectacular but again--heat and bugs?? You da gal.

  11. Bugs can make even the best outdoor adventures a test in patience!

  12. The biting flies would have sent me right back to the car--LOL! You guys are stubborn and used to a lot of bad conditions. :)

  13. Man, those bugs are awful. A nice swim in a pool would have been better.

  14. Wow what a hike you had. I wouldn't fancy going along that ledge. Why do those flies increase so much? We have a lot of them in Scotland but not here near London thankfully.

  15. I was looking at the vistas and thinking it looked like my summer in Switzerland high up in the alps...
    Beautiful, too bad about the bugs !

  16. There was probably a good hatch in the warmer weather. The deet stuff is the best, I think the biting flies are the worst. I see some women carrying handtowels that they keep flapping around their head.


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